A year from now, there’s a good chance Roger Goodell will announce the NFL has voted to award a future Super Bowl to Las Vegas. It’s something the commissioner probably never thought he would have to say.
A year ago, at a league owners meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, Goodell was reluctant to entertain questions about the Oakland Raiders’ potential relocation to Las Vegas. He was against the idea, and the league was opposed to gambling. He wanted that to be the end of the story, yet it was just beginning.
In late March in Phoenix, owners voted 31-1 to approve the Raiders’ move to a $1.9 billion stadium in the shadow of the Strip. On Tuesday in Chicago, owners approved the 30-year lease for the stadium, which is scheduled to open in 2020.
In May 2018, about five months after ground is broken on the stadium site off Russell Road and the I-15, NFL owners will meet and award Super Bowls for 2023 and 2024 — and Las Vegas is a leading candidate to land one.
Raiders owner Mark Davis, a member of the league’s Super Bowl committee, said he plans to lobby for it. A betting man would like his chances.
The next five Super Bowl cities are set: Minneapolis (2018), Atlanta (2019), Miami (2020), Tampa (2021) and Los Angeles/Inglewood (2022).
The NFL’s policy is to award a Super Bowl to a city that builds a new stadium, so Las Vegas will be next in line. It’s one of many big events headed for the new stadium.
Make no mistake, the lines were blurred on the league’s anti-gambling stance long ago, and the NFL is crossing the line by putting the Raiders in Las Vegas. That’s not a negative, but it’s a reality Goodell hoped to avoid.
The NFL now must rewrite some of its old-school gambling policies — prohibiting players or team representatives from participating in promotional appearances at casinos, and prohibiting advertising from casinos that offer sports gambling, for example — to effectively do business in Las Vegas. Not doing so would be hypocritical and ignorant.
Executives from various casinos supported the stadium plan to make this all possible, and continued support from casinos will be needed to assure the Raiders’ relocation and stadium venture are successful for several years to come.
After denouncing legalized sports betting for years, Goodell has changed his tune. A day after the Raiders’ move was approved, Goodell said of sports wagering in Las Vegas, “You have the regulatory environment there, which actually will be beneficial.”
He confirmed the NFL will not be seeking restrictions on Nevada sports books. The lines will be on the board, and it will be business as usual for bettors and bookmakers.
But there are minor issues to iron out, such as mobile gaming at the stadium. The league has not addressed the topic, and no one is certain if fans in the stands will be able to bet on their phones. In-stadium betting is the next bridge to cross — it might be allowed, but the NFL might also request that the Nevada Gaming Commission block the use of phone apps through geolocation technology.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who led the Raiders’ push to relocate, recently said legalized wagering in Las Vegas “in no way compromises” the integrity of the game. Jones was ahead of the game in that respect, and the rest of the league eventually got the message.
The major hurdles facing the Raiders are cleared. Now, wait for the major announcement that a Super Bowl is in Las Vegas’ future.